In 1906, an Italian economist, Vilfredo Pareto made a revolutionary discovery; 80% of the land in Italy was owned by 20% of the population. Doesn’t sound very revolutionary. Well, Pareto didn’t stop there.
He also observed that 80% of the peas in a garden are produced by only 20% of the plants. He began to notice that this ratio continued to pop up in all different areas of life. (80% of crimes are committed by 20% of criminals. 80% of profits come from 20% of customers.) This law came to be known as the Pareto Principle or the 80/20 rule.
This concept is very common in the business world, but is often underutilized in everyday life. One area where it should be taken advantage of is in our hobbies. In order to please people, we often agree to every opportunity offered to us. It is hard to say no to someone when they ask you to play on their softball team, organize an event or check out their cooking class. It usually sounds like a good idea at the time, but ends up being a burden later on. The result is that we either disappoint someone or are extremely stressed. We need to be able to say no. It is not rude to thank them for the invitation and simply say that you won’t be able to make it.
“Beware of the bareness of a busy life.” - Socrates
Before you can start to say no, you need to figure out what you want to say no to. That is where we apply the Pareto Principle. The goal should be to identify what key areas in your life bring you the most joy and to focus on them. We are not taking advantage of the potential joy that each area can bring when we say yes to all of them. You are much better off finding tremendous joy in a few things instead of a little joy (and a lot of stress) in many things.
“Simplicity, simplicity, simplicity! I say, let your affairs be as two or three, and not a hundred or a thousand instead of a million count half a dozen.” - Henry David Thoreau
The first step is to identify the 20% of your activities that give you 80% of your joy. However, once you have those identified, you need to cultivate them in order to get the most out of them. The way to do this, is to GIVE to the communities that share this passion. When you eliminate all of the excess, you have time to give. There are many ways that you can give to those communities. For example, three activities that I truly love to do are play basketball, have long conversations with friends and read.
I have one friend that has taken it upon himself to organize a basketball team to play at a local gym. No one ever wants to be the person in charge of putting something like this together, but he is giving a lot to this group by taking that responsibility upon himself. He is helping all of us to enjoy our passion while spending time together.
Long conversations (2+ hours) with friends while having dinner or just relaxing is my favorite way to spend free time. However, it happens far less than I would like. This is an area where I want to take it upon myself to gather 5 or 6 friends for the simple reason of talking about life. Every other week I would like to make sure that this takes place at my house or a restaurant.
I really enjoy reading and another friend came up with the idea of starting a book club. We meet every other week to talk about what we have read. The group changes depending on people’s schedules and the book that was chosen. This rotation keeps the conversations interesting and creates variety. It allows us to talk about our passion with others that share it. All it requires is sending out a few emails.
“Learn to say 'no' to the good so you can say 'yes' to the best.” - John C. Maxwell
You can easily help to develop your friends passions while cultivating your own. Your friends will be extremely grateful that you took the time to organize these events. Therefore, not only will you have the joy of focusing more on the things that you love, but you will also provide others with the opportunity to do the same. Eliminate stress, add joy, and spread happiness. Helping others to develop their passion can be a great gift.
“Above all, be true to yourself, and if you cannot put your heart in it, take yourself out of it.” - Unknown
You no longer need to worry about stretching yourself in so many directions. Simply choose two or three true loves to really develop. It is important to analyze your life and figure out what 20% brings you 80% of your joy. But don’t stop there. Once you have found that 20%, create ways to give to those that share that passion. It will benefit you and them far more than you ever thought.
(Note: You may have 5 or 6 true loves, but you don’t need to focus on them all at the same time. Try switching up what the two or three activities are every 3 to 6 months. Allow yourself to enjoy each by focusing on it.)
Challenge: Figure out two activities in your life that you are going to stop doing (They may be fun but are not what you truly LOVE). Then find one area that you really LOVE and find a way to give to those that share that love.
Photo by Samantha Gades